Last year on Holy Saturday, I was privileged to be present to a large group of teenagers who had gathered at the hospital in the wake a a terrible car accident. It occurred to me then, and it has stayed with me, that the fear and anxiety they felt marked something of what the apostles felt in the wake of Good Friday. Dreams and hopes dashed, the taken-for-granted past now a painful memory nearly erased by the trauma of a violent death. They're lives seem shattered, their faith seems for naught, their hopes wither and die.
I can't help but to think about how many of us live lives of perpetual Holy Saturdays. How many struggle just to hold on after the sudden death of a loved one, fumbling in the depths of grief for something to hold on to. The young mother awaiting a cancer diagnosis. The parents whose child is gravely ill. The father rousted from deep sleep with the news that his son has been in a terrible car accident. The fearful waiting, the seemingly feeble and empty prayers, the bargaining, the denial, the resigned acceptance, the anger...
For those who struggle to find meaning in this day, think back upon your own life. When in your life have you locked yourself away that the sun might not shine on your grieving face? When did you experience the harrowing and crushing pressure of the unknowing and doubt that plagues us when our world has been turned upside down? When did you last feel the sheer agony of disappointment for what "could have been" but "never will be"?
These are our Holy Saturdays, the days that follow in the wake of a trauma. Like the water churned in the wake of a boat, the waters surge and roil long after the boat has passed by; the violence of "You have cancer" or "Mr. Jones, we need you to come to the hospital, there has been an accident" breaks in upon us, leaving us adrift and disoriented in its wake.
Sometimes, it's all we can do to hold on...to tighten our grip when everything within us tells us to let go, to give up, to despair. Sometimes it seems as though the chaos of our lives drowns out all other voices, all words of support, all hope for the future.
I think we'd like to consider ourselves an Easter people, those animated by the joy and majesty of the resurrection. Sinners all, I suspect we are actually denizens of Holy Saturday who only every now and again catch glimpses of Easter's triumph.
My prayer today brings me back to those times in my life when I have had staggering doubt and fear and disappointment...especially when there was no light at the end of the tunnel or any hope for victory. These experiences, I find, draw me into today's spirit - waiting, trusting, hoping against hope. If the night is darkest just before dawn, then we have reached this point that seems to extend into infinity - a point of time pregnant with as-yet unimagined opportunities, with un-thought of promise, with incomprehensible grace.
Many will go to bed tonight only to awaken to another Holy Saturday, another in an unending stream of doubt-filled and anxiety-ridden days. Let us be conscious of them today as we absorb the trauma of yesterday and look with hope-filled anticipation toward tomorrow. Let our prayers this day be for those whose lives are forever a repetition Holy Saturday, that they may glimpse in their dark hours a speck of Easter's light that threatens to break in upon us, announcing a new dawn, a new day, a new era.